What is Drug Driving?
Drug driving is similar to drink driving but instead of alcohol being present in the blood, a person is charged with driving while drugs are present in the blood. A person can either be charged with driving while under the influence of a drug (“UID”) or driving while a relevant drug is present in their blood or saliva.
This is a very serious offence in Queensland and if you are found to be drug driving, it’s crucial that you are represented by expert drug driving lawyers to ensure that you protect yourself and your licence.
Roadside Drug Testing
Random roadside drug testing allows authorised police officers to conduct saliva testing for the presence of drugs, either together with random breath testing (RBT) or as a stand-alone test. If drugs are detected in your system you will be required to go to court and plead your case. .
The roadside drug testing process is similar to that of an RBT, and will test for:
- THC (the main active ingredient in cannabis)
- Methylamphetamine (commonly known as speed or ice)
- MDMA (the main active ingredient in ecstasy)
The saliva test takes 3-5 minutes, and if it produces a negative result then you can continue on your way. If it produces a positive result, which shows that drugs have been detected, you will need to provide a second sample for another test. If the second test is also positive, your driver’s licence will be suspended for 24 hours while the samples are sent to a laboratory for further testing.
If the laboratory results are found to be positive, you will be notified and charged with a drug driving offence of either driving under the influence or driving while a relevant drug is present.
Please note that although saliva tests will not detect legal prescription drugs such as cold and flu medication and pain killers, some of these are still not safe to drive with in your system. If a police officer reasonably suspects that your driving ability has been affected by any legal or illegal drug, they are permitted to request a sample of your blood for analysis.
You can find more information about the different types of drugs and how they can affect your driving ability further below.
Saliva drug tests are designed to react only with the active ingredients of the listed drugs, and how long it stays in your system will depend on a variety of factors including the type of drug, the quantity and quality of the drug, the frequency of drug use and how long it’s been since the drug was taken. It will also be influenced by the individual and their tolerance levels, overall health and metabolism as well as a number of other environmental factors.
In general, the detection period for the listed drugs are as follows:
THC – The active ingredient in cannabis can typically be detected for at least several hours after it has been taken but can be much longer.
Methylamphetamine – Depending on the amount and potency of the drug, it can usually be detected for about 24 hours.
MDMA – The active ingredient in ecstasy can normally be detected for approximately 24 hours after it has been taken.
It is important to note, however, that it is still extremely dangerous to drive even when drugs are not prevalent in your system. Some can have withdrawal effects of fatigue and anxiety for a day or two after taking them which can also cause unsafe driving.
Prescription and Other Drugs
You should never drive after taking illegal drugs or any sort of prescription or over-the-counter drugs that can affect your driving ability. Doing so can have extremely dangerous impacts on your brain and body which can influence how safely you drive, such as:
- A reduced ability to judge distance and speed
- A distorted perception of time, space and place
- Decreased concentration and coordination
- Blurred vision
- Dizziness and fainting
- Memory loss
- Muscle weakness
- Unpredictable behaviour
- Loss of consciousness
It’s also very important to note that some legal prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can also alter your perceptions and cause unsafe driving. Some of these include:
Central nervous system stimulants
These speed up your brain and body:
Cold and flu medication and decongestants which contain pseudoephedrine
Central nervous system depressants
These slow down your brain and body:
- Allergy medications
- Cough medicines
- Pain killers which contain codeine
- Sedatives and tranquilisers
These are used for pain relief:
- High dose corticosteroids
- Opiates such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone
- Some herbal medicines such as passionflower and valerian
If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, it’s vital that you consult your doctor or pharmacist to make sure it is safe to drive while taking them. If not, you need to make other transport arrangements to avoid a serious drug driving charge.
Important Safety Tips
If you plan on taking drugs or mixing drugs with other drugs or alcohol, it is crucial that you take steps to ensure your safety and the safety of others around you.
- Never drive after taking illegal drugs or after taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications that could affect your ability to drive safely.
- Never drive after taking any sort of prescription or illegal drug that you are unsure of its effect on your body. Use public transport, catch a taxi or organise someone else to drive.
- If you are taking prescription medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to mix your medications with other drugs or with alcohol. Always read the information provided and take only the recommended dosage.
- If you are taking drugs and need to travel, make sure you plan ahead by organising a driver, arranging to be picked up, catching public transport or a taxi, or arranging to stay overnight. It’s important to remember that some drugs can continue to affect you the following day, so don’t attempt to drive until you are sure you have eliminated all the drugs from your body.
- Most drugs take at least 24 to 48 hours to completely leave your system, so even if you don’t feel affected by them, they can still affect your driving. If you are mixing different types of drugs or mixing drugs with alcohol, it may take longer for them to leave your system.
Drug Driving Penalties
An offence for driving under the influence of a drug is treated the same as an offence of driving under the influence of alcohol. The maximum penalty that applies to this type of offence is therefore a fine of up to $2,800 or imprisonment of up to 9 months, along with a mandatory licence disqualification of at least 6 months.
An offence of driving while a relevant drug is present in blood or saliva is less serious than driving under the influence but it is still very serious. The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of up to $1,400 or imprisonment of up to 3 months, along with a mandatory licence disqualification of at least 1-3 months.
Queensland maintains a strict zero tolerance policy for driving under the influence of illegal drugs and if you have been previously convicted of drug driving in the last 5 years and are charged with a repeat drug driving offence, the penalty will be much more severe.
How we can help you
Many drivers are incorrectly charged with a UID offence when the evidence only supports the lesser offence of driving while a drug is present. Without professional advice from qualified drug driving lawyers, they would not know how to detect or amend this. We can review your individual matter with a carefully trained eye to ensure that you are charged with the correct offence.
Our dedicated drug driving lawyers can also assist with obtaining a lesser penalty if you choose to plead guilty and in certain circumstances, we can even help you apply for a work licence which will allow you to keep driving for work purposes even if your licence is disqualified by the courts.
Contact Queensland’s Expert Drug Driving Lawyers
If you have been charged with drug driving in Brisbane or Queensland, it is important that you seek legal advice immediately from an expert drug driving lawyer.
Contact us now for a no obligation discussion about your case. We will be able to let you know your rights and your options as well as what penalties you might face if convicted of drug driving in Queensland.